Once you’ve built your team using the right questions, an exacting interview process, the testing phase, and immersion in company culture, get out of their way and let them do their work. Micromanaging does not equate to leadership. If you are going to oversee every detail, save yourself the time and energy it takes to hire employees and just do the job yourself. You go for that eighty-hour work-week. One of the greatest values you will get out of building the right team is the added strength they bring in having what you don’t have. They will find solutions you may have missed. They will help you succeed. And, from time to time, they will save your bacon!
While at Mitsubishi Electric, I managed a highly effective team that was working on winning a significant deal. We had labored long hours for several weeks (including several sleepless nights). The CEO of our target company was a guy by the name of Peter V., a tough, hard-nosed businessman. I flew to the target company’s headquarters and won the contract—a great payoff for my team and their hard, smart work. On the return flight home, I composed an email to send to my team and the executive management of Mitsubishi.
The email outlined our cost structure in detail, delineated how things would work going forward, and showed a great margin—in short, it opened wide the deal’s kimono. It just so happened that many of the Mitsubishi executive team members were named Peter. So I began adding the Peters from my address book one after the other. Upon landing and getting a connection, I let the email fly. At 5:00 a.m. the next morning, my well-deserved snooze was disturbed by Peter M., a member of the Mitsubishi executive team who had received the email.
“Rich, congratulations on getting the deal! By the way, who is Peter V.?”
I mumbled through sleepy eyes and hazy thoughts, “He’s the CEO of the company who awarded us the deal. Why?”
Peter M., “Do you realize that you copied him on the email outlining our exact margins, costs, how well we came out, and how you just gave him a good, all-around spanking?”
All of a sudden, my kimono was hanging wide open. In a panic, I bypassed the shower, breakfast, and family, and broke land speed records to get to the office. I waited dejectedly, slumped in my chair, anticipating my team’s arrival.
As they filtered in, they were intrigued by my disheveled appearance and began asking questions. After giving them an update on our precarious situation, my admin called an emergency meeting. Here’s how it looked that fateful morning.
We had a room called the “War Room,” so designated because it was the place my team met to do all the heavy lifting. I stood in front of my colleagues and explained what had happened. It felt like there was no recovery possible. I couldn’t muster a single idea. The team began brain-storming. Shawn, an incredible executive admin, put a call in to Peter V.’s executive admin to test the waters.
“Hello, Sarah, this is Shawn. How are you today? Rich was hoping to have a conversation with Peter. What is his status?”
Sarah responded: “He is on a flight right now to Las Vegas.” Good sign!
Shawn continued: “How is he at checking his email?”
“He’s religious. The second he touches down he’ll go to the hotel and check his email before anything else.”
“What time will he land?”
“I think he lands about twelve-thirty our time, so it should be at about one o’clock that he’ll get his emails.”
Shawn got off the phone and reported: four hours until Peter V. was able to check his email. One of the members of the team, Dave, said, “I’m really good friends with Jim, the IT guy at Peter V.’s company. I could call him and tell him that there is an inappropriate email that has gone through, and see if he’ll erase it. It’s risky, but better than doing nothing.”
The team sat musing, and tried to expand on the new idea. “Well, what emotions are involved in this? What needs to happen to get the response we want?”
Everyone started naming emotions: fear, frustration, greed. Someone suggested confusion—if we could simply create enough confusion.
Finally, someone suggested that I send 100 emails with the same title but nothing in it so it looked like spam.
“Whoa, that might work—and while we’re at it, let’s add a little fear!” I chirped.
We finally decided that everyone in the office would send 200 emails to all of their contacts in the target company with meaningless titles and bits of information. We ended up dumping something like 5,000 emails to the target company in a matter of one minute. It wasn’t two minutes before Jim called Dave and asked: “We just got 5,000 emails, what’s going on?” Dave responded, “Whatever you do, delete every email you got from us in the last 24 hours. If you don’t, a virus will mail itself to every address in your company’s database.” Jim did just that!
Nightmare solved. Bacon saved. Lesson learned.
Surround yourself with people you trust and let them use their skills.
Porter’s Points – The Power of Team
- Trust and empower your team to make decisions and take actions for the good of your company. Give them problems and let them come to you with solutions, always looking to make them stretch a little more than last time.
- Do not punish mistakes that are made in an attempt to contribute. Take ten minutes to cool down if something blows up, then go back and make it a learning experience and not a tirade.
- In times of crisis, let your team save you. If you haven’t empowered them before, though, they may have trouble treading water themselves. The power of team comes as you regularly involve the players, so give them practice.